I originally joined Twitter in July 2006, about two weeks after its introduction at that year’s SXSW made quite the sensation. I wasn’t at South By that year but heard about it while listening to Leo Laporte’s post-The Screen Savers podcast. My Twitter user number (which used to be assigned sequentially and were pretty easy to find but now aren’t either of those things) is under 3,000.
Back then, Twitter wasn’t an app. There barely were apps. The iPhone wouldn’t come out for another year, and even then, the only apps it ran were the ones it came with. (Fun fact: the first independent app you could run on an iPhone, even before the App Store, was a third-party Twitter app.) You Tweeted by sending an SMS message to Twitter. My first tweet was sent using a Palm Treo and, of course, had a misspelling (no grammar dommes back then). You saw your friend’s tweets by going to twttr.com because vowels were for squares (see also, Flickr, Tumblr, et. al.). It was all so rudimentary and cool and new. Like most tech in the mid-2000s.
Anyway, yeah, I’m an old school Twitterer.
I made my Thumper Twitter account in February 2009 when I realized there were kinky people there talking about being kinky (and posting dirty pictures of themselves and others because Twitter has always been sex positive). That account’s user number is 20,823,289. Before its recent troubles, there were about 300 million active Twitter user accounts (and way, way more than that inactive). So even my kinky Twitter account, which I still think of as “new,” was ahead of the curve.
I don’t say any of this for some kind of nerd street cred. I say it to establish myself as someone who is motherfucking invested in the platform. I honestly love Twitter. I love it so much that I signed all my accounts up for Twitter Blue as soon as it came out for no other reason than I wanted to support the company and help make sure Twitter never went anywhere. I have subsequently unsubscribed all my accounts from Blue, and not because the price went from $3 to $5 to $8.
My OG muggle account is really about consumption. It has less than 700 followers even after all the years it’s been around, but I’ve invested time to curate lists of people in all my key muggle interest areas: news, politics, tech, Marvel/Star Wars, spaceflight, baseball, etc. I do tweet, but the same half dozen or so people are the only ones who ever like or reply to what I say. They may be the only people who even see it. I dunno. The real point of it is to stay informed. And it’s a totally unique and irreplaceable resource. Even after all this time, nothing like it exists (yet).
My kinky account is totally different. It’s all about community. It’s about affirmation and encouragement and kinship. It’s about learning that your weird little kink isn’t a) weird, or b) little. Slipping into Thumper Twitter is like when Norm walks into Cheers. I feel camaraderie and have friends. Real people whose lives I’m invested in. When Tumblr imploded, I mourned the passing of a horny friend. But Twitter is family. If it goes…I’ll be bereft.
And I sense that it is going. My muggle feed isn’t as filled out as out it used to be. My Thumper account, which usually picks up a handful of followers every day, is decidedly losing them now. Presumably, both these things are related. Presumably, people are leaving the platform. When things like Twitter collapse, it happens little by little and then all at once. We’re in the little by little stage. How far away from all at once?
I will probably be able to eventually recreate something close to my muggle consumption model Twitter experience, but I’m terrified about the Thumper side. The side that is filled with adults being explicit with one another, not just for the sexy funtime value, but also for the aforementioned community. Whatever comes after Twitter needs to also be sex positive and permissive of individual expression of sexuality. And as we’ve seen with Tumblr (and the puritanical, paternalistic app store policies of Apple and Google), platforms that foster that kind of community are vanishing or being extinguished. For whatever reason, the mid-2000 allowed for places like Twitter and Tumblr to be created. The 2020s not so much.
And yeah, I know about Mastodon and FetLife. FetLife is not the same thing at all. Mastodon has promise, but it’s unclear to me that it’s the One That Was Promised. But we’re rapidly approaching a moment in time where Twitter might just stop working due to layoffs and its owner being a colossal dick to its remaining employees. Twitter is old and complicated and creaky and at some point something no one currently working there even knows about is going to break and take the thing down for an hour or a day or a week…or forever. And the supreme irony is the place I’d go to find out where everyone else is going is fucking Twitter.
What’s happening to it right now makes me indescribably sad. It’s all so fucking wasteful and nonsensical and stupid and unfair. A petulant manchild who thinks he knows more than everyone else due to the size of his financial portfolio is destroying it in real time right in front of us because he can and is too proud to admit he needs help or listen to others who know more than he does. He’s going to piss away enough money to make significant dents in things like hunger and housing and public health on a global level in a fit of pique.
Fuck Elon Musk. Fuck the asshole techbro kiss-asses who surround and encourage him. Fuck a society that venerates people like him. But long live Twitter. Somewhere. Somehow.